Image credit:  Daily Telegraph


I don’t usually jump on the media bandwagon and offer my thoughts on what to random ‘celebrities’ are waffling on about.  Mainly because no-one’s remotely interested in what I have to say (fair point).  But I just thought my point of view might be interesting on this occasion.


A lot of you may have come across an article in yesterday’s Telegraph by Kirstie Allsopp.  To save you reading the whole article, the main premise of her opinion is that she feels young women shouldn’t go to university straight after school – they should stay home and make babies instead.  And I quote:


‘Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.” 




Now a lot of you may actually agree with her.  Fair enough.  Personally, I can’t quite work out if she’s trying to be deliberately provocative or not, but I’m not going to say much more about her other than we’re all entitled to opinions.  But I DO think it’s dangerous for anyone to say what women should or shouldn’t do.  What a lovely position to be in Ms Allsopp, to be able to help your child buy a flat. I know no-one that has ever or will ever be in that fortunate position.  (As an aside, quite how she became an ‘expert’ on anything other than sewing and houses, I’m not sure.)


However, here are my two pennies worth just for the sake of it.


When I was at school, the idea of going to university or, for that matter, even taking A-levels was alien to me.  It just wasn’t on my radar.  Ever.  Which is kinda odd.  But it was never suggested to me as an option by my school (back in the day when we had Careers Advisors, for what they were worth … ie. not a lot) … or by my parents.


It just was what it was.  You accepted and respected your parents’ advice/opinion and often followed in their footsteps which, in my case, was to become a Secretary.


As I grew older I think I became a little resentful of that because it had always left me feeling like I wasn’t smart enough or even worthy of doing what a lot of my peers did – and it left a bad taste in my mouth.


It felt like I had no choice.


I pretty much went on to do what Kirstie Allsopp suggested. I found a ‘nice boyfriend’ at 19, got married at 20 and had my eldest son Ben at 24.  After I left school I did at least get to go to college and by the time I was 18 I had found myself a great job working for a national newspaper, albeit in a supporting type role.


I was happy because, I think, I had no aspirations to do better. No one in my family had ever gone to university before me, let alone my mother who I really looked up to, and it felt like no one even thought that someone like me could ever go to university.  That’s pretty sad looking back.


So I just ended up getting stuck in a relationship at far too young an age because that’s what my parents had done. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t regret anything that happened because I have the most amazing son from that relationship, but I often wonder … what if?


What if I had gone to university after leaving school?  What would I be doing for a living? Would I have children? Would I even be living in this country?  I always had aspirations to live abroad, travel, see the world … instead I was married at 20 and never travelled further than Majorca.


The worst thing is that the feeling of ‘unworthiness’ has stayed with me throughout my life.  The feeling of not being ‘good enough.’  Until, that is, I faced that demon head on, aged 36, when I applied to go to university. (You can read a little bit more about that here.)


I think what I’m trying to say is that life has a certain way of often coming full circle. I do wish I had gone to university aged 18 and experienced it the way I think it should be experienced – I think the self development aspect of uni would have really helped me mature into a confident woman.  But I never let it hold me back.  I eventually learnt that I’m just as smart and worthy as everyone else that went to university. I had a point to prove but only to myself.


Kirstie Allsopp is a very fortunate woman.  She’s the daughter of a Lord … I’m the daughter of a builder.  She has always had choice in her life.  Kids these days have to make the decision whether they want to be saddled with a massive debt and a degree or leave school and compete with everyone else for a job.  I admire anyone who has ambition but Uni isn’t for everyone.


Yes University is now really expensive – as the mother of a 19 year old who is currently at Bournemouth University I know only too well about the money side of things. However, whether my eldest had been a girl or a boy, I still believe that if they wanted to go to university at 18, and feel like it is going to give them a step up the career ladder, then they should do it and I will support it.


Life isn’t black and white.  Life is about choosing what is best for you, regardless of what a random woman from TV says.  Some of us have choice, some of us don’t.  We’re all just trying to do what we can to survive half the time.


I have led a really interesting life as a wife, single mother, student, freelancer, office worker, mother … and one thing I do know is that we will have the right to decide what is best for ourselves.


We are already hard enough on ourselves without TV ‘personalities’ telling us we did it all wrong.





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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.

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  1. Go you! I loved university but in all honesty I learnt far more French and about France from my 12 years living there than from my French degree. However I wouldn’t have missed uni for the world as I learnt about ME there. I would always offer university to my kids as I think it’s an education in life. How awful to be told by someone who doesn’t know us what we ALL should be doing!

  2. I agree. No one should tell others what to do. It was expected that I would go to university (I had a scholarship to a top five girls school). I left school at 16, moved to London and got a job. I met my husband just after I turned 17 and started doing A levels when I was 18 and working full time. Only after I had two children, and at the age of 29 did I feel like I was good enough to go to university. I graduate this summer with a PPE degree from a top ten university. I wouldn’t have done anything differently and I will support my children in whatever decisions they choose about university.

  3. Wise words – as ever! Couldn’t agree MORE! Everyone should be left to make their own decisions and, seriously, who in the real world has the money to buy their kid a flat? xx

  4. Well you know my feelings on this topic; it breaks my heart though Kate that you ever felt ‘unworthy’. Of course you’re not, and of course going to uni doesn’t define you, and it’s not the be all and end all, but as single mums of kids at uni we both know we’re giving them the best possible start in life. I guess the thing that surprised me most yesterday when Kirstie tweeted me was when she asked ‘who paid for your degree?’ – ie, she knew it was the state who must have paid (because of my age – we’ve worked together) and I think/hope (?) she was saying kids shouldn’t be saddled with debt for the sake of a degree. I agree with that. But then I also think education is a right, not a privilege; it shouldn’t just be the preserve of those rich enough not to need a loan (which is I’m sure what the Tories would like to see happen) and it’s an absolute fact that getting a degree increases your earning power. I think, really, Kirstie is talking to women who don’t *really* need to work: that’s not the majority of women in Britain.

  5. I must admit i really don’t understand the anger directed at Kirstie for her personal opinion, or advice she would offer her daughter.
    It’s not what i would do, not what i did and maybe not what i would advise my own children but it’s a perfectly valid point of view none the less.

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